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Does Your Internship Qualify as a Freebie?

With summer internship season just around the corner, here's some information about how to figure out if your students' internship does indeed fit the legal criteria for being unpaid.

The U.S. Department of Labor released a fact sheet Wednesday to help determine whether interns must be paid the minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act for the services that they provide to "for-profit" private-sector employers.

Students can participate in private-sector internships or training programs without compensation if the following six criteria are met:

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment;

2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and

6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

It's a tough balance between making sure students get real-world experience yet aren't taken advantage of in the process.

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